Samit Basu tells us why he believes his new novel, Turbulence, can prove that there's room for his bunch of real-world superheroes in today's world
"My previous books were released in the pre-Chetan Bhagat period. They had their run and managed to escape the madness at the right time," chuckles Samit Basu about his critically acclaimed fantasy reads and young adult novels.
Recently in the city for the launch of Turbulence, Samit is excited about his foray into mainstream writing -- "I decided to move away from fantasy and weave a contemporary, believable situation. The idea of (using) daily-life scenarios is no stranger than any fantasy-driven adventure," he reasons, of the book's premise that centres on superheroes in a modern, terror-injected landscape in the Indian subcontinent. Lending his own twist to the fantasy formulae, and moving from the world of make-believe to real life was an exciting proposition.
In the book, every passenger aboard BA flight 142 from London to Delhi disembarked with a unique superpower, which they were unaware of and didn't want. The rollercoaster begins when those who have survived start getting hunted down.
"Turbulence is a crossover, with its pulse on the ever-exploring Indian reader," adds Anurima Roy, publicity manager, Hachette India. She adds that Samit's earlier fantasy works have done well and his new mainstream read has already captured the imagination of readers.
"More copies of Turbulence were sold in one week than any of my earlier copies over the last eight years," adds Samit. Before Turbulence, Samit spent seven years writing fantasy-driven plots for comic books, short stories and graphic novels for kids and adults. "I am deeply attached to this genre. There have been several text-only titles about superheroes in the past, but what sets this one apart is the subcontinental setting. My previous works always celebrated the stereotype," adds Samit, whose favourite superhero is the lesser-known Defenstrator, who carries around a little window he throws people through.
DOES THE WORLD NEED A SUPERHERO?
"Superman was created in the 1930s. With his powers he could stop trains and bank robberies, generate electricity, and save the world from natural disasters. If you possess good powers, it's important to ask yourself a few questions, including how much power can be used towards self-ambition? How much can one improve the lives of others? The power of this book is that it amplifies these questions and gives it a believable character," shares Samit about his bunch of modern-day superheroes, led by Aman Sen.
He adds that only a few thousand Indian readers know of superheroes outside the comic book genre, and hopes that Turbulence will connect with an audience that wouldn't have referential connects of Indian prototypes. And, no, you won't meet a desi Wolverine or Batman, thankfully.
EXCERPTS FROM TURBULENCE
'Well done,' he says. 'I'm really looking forward to working with you.'
Uzma and Saheli float out of the building into the streets of Juhu on a pink cloud of excitement.
As they step out, auto-rickshaws queue up for the privilege of taking the new Queens of Bollywood wherever she wants to go. Saheli's phone rings. She takes the call, and as she listens the smile slowly fades from her face. When she disconnects and turns to Uzma, she looks worried.
'Your great-aunt called from Lucknow,' she says. 'The police were over, looking for you.'
'That's weird,' says Uzma. 'It happened when I was there as well.'
'Uzma, I need to ask you something.'
'Yes, sorry. Have I done anything illegal? No. It's just been a really great trip so far. I've been really lucky.'
'You were lucky in college. You were popular in college. But these last two weeks - there's something I'm not getting here. I keep trying to figure it out. Sure, you're hot. But I've lived in this city all my life, and I've known you for four years, and something just doesn't fit. No one has the kind of luck you've been having so far.'
'No one you know, what I mean. Maybe, I'm just... Right, I sound like a complete bitch saying this, but maybe I just have a destiny here, yeah? Maybe this was where I was meant to be. Look, I know what you're saying. It's been weird. Not just in Mumbai. People in Lucknow kept trying to invite me into their houses and feed me. It's just been wonderful. Ever since - you know -- you ever have the feeling that you're part of something bigger?'
'Yes, but it never means anything. What are you talking about?'
Uzma stirs uncomfortably. 'See, on the flight from London to Delhi - and it's about 13 hours, you know, you've been on it - I had this dream. A really long dream, because I pretty much slept through the entire flight - don't remember a thing after getting on that plane.'
'So you slept on the plane. Why are you telling me this"'
'Well, that was really when things got a bid odd. It was this really bizarre dream